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Sunderland's Bette Davis expert set to speak at celebrity conference

Dr Martin Shingler is set to share his knowledge on Bette Davis.
Dr Martin Shingler is set to share his knowledge on Bette Davis.

A Sunderland university boss is set to take flight to share his knowledge on Hollywood star Bette Davis.

Dr Martin Shingler, a star studies expert from the University of Sunderland, is travelling to Italy this week to speak at the Celebrity Studies Conference.

Bette Davis and co-star Joan Crawford.

Bette Davis and co-star Joan Crawford.

The event, in Rome, will see prominent academics and scholars from around the world gather.

Dr Shingler, who leads the film and media programme at the university, will be at the University of Rome in Sapienza on Wednesday to discuss Bette's work and legacy.

He said: “I’ve written and talked a lot about Davis’ work as a movie star and, more specifically, as an actor but I’ve never really focused on her celebrity before.

“I’ll be looking in particular at her later career in the 1980s when she struggled to find film work as an elderly actress but could still command attention on TV and in the press as a well-known personally with strong opinions and a distinctive image.”

Dr Shingler has spent much of his career researching some of the biggest names in Hollywood and has co-edited a series of books on superstars of the big screen.

He examines the cultural significance of celebrities and their lasting influence and legacy.

His favourite subject is Bette Davis, who became a major film star at Warner Bros in the 1930s.

She was later infamous for her volatile temper, sense of humour and controlling behaviour, as well as an increasing dependency on cigarettes and alcohol.

She died in October 1989, by which time she had become a cult figure for a generation of audiences and a gay icon.

Dr Shingler feels public interest in the former actress is as strong as ever.

He said: “In 2018, the 110th anniversary of her birth, Bette Davis seems to be more relevant than ever when it comes to understanding the dynamics of stardom and celebrity.

“The recent high profile TV mini-series Feud, starring Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford, provides ample evidence of Davis’s enduring fascination, as does the bestselling novel The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter.

“As far as I can see, Bette Davis is here to stay and I’m fascinated as to why she remains so relevant in contemporary culture almost 30 years after her death.”